KIM MITCHELL (Max Webster) – Kim Mitchell EP [Wounded Bird Remaster] + Akimbo Alogo [20th Anniversary remaster]
Alongside Max Webster’s remastered albums featured here, you really need to check out founder KIM MITCHELL solo debut remastered by Wounded Bird Records.
This is an incredibly difficult review to write. How? How can words do justice to this magnificent 5-song EP of Rock perfection? Am I supposed to somehow relay in English how this album makes me, and many other Max Webster fans feel? I don’t think it too crazy to suggest that the self-titled Kim Mitchell EP is the greatest EP Canadian Rock has produced.
As far as rock music goes in general, you will find very few Canadian releases as solidly untouchable as Kim Mitchell. There will be some reading this whose knowledge of Kim and Max Webster vastly exceeds mine, and even though I have played this EP hundreds upon hundreds of times, I still need to actually play it again in order to convey to you how excellent it truly is.
Kim Mitchell burned out on Max Webster. There were numerous lineup changes towards the end, and Kim walked out. He was quick to bounce back with some new band members (Peter Fredette, Robert Sinclair Wilson, Paul DeLong) and some new songs.
Still with Kim through the breakup was Max Webster lyricist Pye Dubois, the only holdover from that band. Kim settled into a recording studio in Oshawa Ontario (!) with the legendary Jack Richardson.
The guitar blasts of “Kids In Action” are sometimes included on Max Webster hits albums, but it was originally released as the opening track on Kim Mitchell. “I guess we’re just gonna have to be the best bonfire in town,” sings Kim, and I think he succeeded. “We want modern thrills, we want rock n’ roll that kills,” sing the backing band. I think we got it.
“Kids In Action” is the perfect storm of Max’s harder side, with Kim’s newly found Melodic Rock sensibilities. That guitar is hard but the choruses have a new harmonic sheen. Fredette provided backing vocals to the record, and Kim fans know how awesome and integral he is to Kim’s solo sound. Meanwhile DeLong can’t resist throwing in some Max-worthy drum fills that shake the cranium.
That was a killer opener, yet “Miss Demeanor” may be the best tune on the record. Everything about this song is perfect from the simple riff to the amazing rhythm section. Kim unexpectedly throws on an acoustic solo, just as terrific as any electric solo would be. The song is also supersaturated with nice little electric guitar licks.
If you title a song “Big Best Summer” then it had better sound like it. The track is as gleeful as you want it to be, with most of the joy coming across in the guitar licks. Once again the rhythm section has it laid down perfect, leaving Kim plenty of space to splash down tons of little guitar bits and pieces. “Sometimes we thought we were the only ones under the sun.” Yeah, I think I’ve had those summers too.
If “Miss Demeanor” isn’t the best tune on the album for you, then “Tennessee Water” has to be. This one blows the doors off, with a slippery bluesy guitar lick and relentless groove that keeps cooking and won’t stop. It’s good time rock n’ roll, performed by guys who really know they’re doing. Incredible stuff.
The slow rock of “Chain of Events” was chosen to close the record. There are a couple slight dissonant chords that keep the song on the experimental side. It also has a strange rhythmic quality, and quirky Pye lyrics. Kim’s guitar solo is bizarre and unique.
It’s worth noting that unlike Kim’s later albums, and also unlike Max Webster, this EP has no keyboards. This allows the bass guitar to breath, and leaves Kim plenty of space for guitar fun.
As such, this is the toughest Kim solo release by far. As good as ‘Akimbo Alogo’ was, this is undeniably even better.
Speaking of ‘Akimbo Alogo’, this was the following Mitchell album, the first full length. And it’s wonderful too.
Here, Kim fully embrace the 1984 sound, melodic, catchy, and yes, with ‘that’ keyboards / synths.
There’s not a trace of that prog or experimentation that made Max Webster such a unique creature. However, those fans were too quick to judge, as this is simply a great sincere album loaded with stellar playing and hooky songs.
‘Akimbo Alogo’ still stands up on its own as Kim’s finest solo full album. Back in that hazy summer of 1984 it spawned four hit videos: “Lager & Ale”, “That’s A Man”, the fantastic ballad “All We Are” and of course, the immortal “Go For Soda”.
Although the album cut “Rumour Has It” is no slouch, “Lager & Ale” is one of the hardest driving tunes Kim’s done. The video was one of those great 80s ones that was just a live performance — but then that live performance becomes so ingrained into your head, that it’s your default version!
But Kim’s always been tender too, and his excellent feel on the six string assures us that the few ballads are still memorable. There’s the hit “All We Are” (still gets airplay today), but “Caroline” and “Called Off” are both excellent songs as well. “Called Off” in fact scorches with Kim’s fiery guitar work.
“All We Are” was written during the tail end of Max Webster, but Kim knew nobody in that band could sing the high notes in the chorus. Along comes Peter Fredette, a talented musician and singer in his own right. His vocal made this song something truly special.
Of course, Kim’s guitar playing is among some of the best he’s ever laid down on tape, and that includes the Max stuff. His soloing on this song is vibrant and warm, loaded with feeling.
Both great pieces of ’80s Canadian Rock music, “Kim Mitchell EP” & “Akimbo Alogo” were mentioned by countless bands as influence throughout ’80s, namely Honeymoon Suite, Red Rider, even Triumph / Rik Emmett / Loverboy later works.
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Kim Mitchell EP [Wounded Bird Remaster]
01 – Kids In Action
02 – Miss Demeanor
03 – Big Best Summer
04 – Tennessee Water
05 – Chain Of Events
Lead Vocals, Guitar – Kim Mitchell
Bass, Vocals – Robert Sinclair Wilson
Drums – Paul DeLong
Backing Vocals – Bernie LaBarge, Peter Fredette
Akimbo Alogo [20th Anniversary remaster]
01 – Go For Soda
02 – That’s A Man
03 – All We Are
04 – Diary For Rock’N’Roll Men
05 – Love Ties
06 – Feel It Burn
07 – Lager And Ale
08 – Rumour Has It
09 – Caroline
10 – Called Off
Vocals, Lead Guitar – Kim Mitchell
Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals – Peter Fredette
Bass, Keyboards, Vocals – Robert Sinclair Wilson
Drums – Paul Delong
Keyboards, Synthesizer – Todd Booth